CavanKerry Press attended the publication party for Identif-I in Hoboken, New Jersey. The event was held Saturday, May 20 at the Hoboken Historical Museum.
View footage from the Identif-I publication party below.
CavanKerry Press attended the publication party for Identif-I in Hoboken, New Jersey. The event was held Saturday, May 20 at the Hoboken Historical Museum.
View footage from the Identif-I publication party below.
The 22nd Annual Poetry Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is taking place on Monday, June 12, 2017 at 6:00PM.
Guest in attendance includes poets Billy Collins – Sharon Olds, Gregory Pardlo – Claudia Rankine and actor & poetry lover Bill Murray.
More details on the 22nd Annual Poetry Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge below.
Join us for this beloved Poets House tradition that celebrates the poetry of New York City, featuring readings by Billy Collins, Sharon Olds, Gregory Pardlo, Claudia Rankine, and special guest Bill Murray, followed by a celebratory dinner in DUMBO. This year, we honor Frank Platt and Bill Murray with the Elizabeth Kray Award for their help in building the organization, and Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen, for her service to poetry. A reading of Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” read by Sharon Olds will take place place in front of sweeping views of the city. Afterwards, we’ll have wine, dinner and dessert inside a beautiful, historic foundry in DUMBO. All proceeds benefit Poets House’s library, public programs, and class trips for children and teens. The 2017 Poetry Walk launches the 30th Anniversary of Poets House.
6:00pm: Check-in begins near One Centre Street
6:30 pm: Walk begins in Manhattan, near One Centre Street
8:00 pm: Seated dinner at 26 Bridge Street in DUMBO
*Tickets start at $250
For more information, visit Poets House.
CavanKerry Press Authors in the Community: Paola Corso Interview with Baron Wormser
Since its inception, CavanKerry Press has been committed to community. It’s outreach programs include Giftbooks, Waiting Room Reader, Bookshare, New Jersey Poetry Out Loud, and The Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching. And in return for CavanKerry Press authors getting their books published, they offer free talks and workshops to under-served readers in their communities and free books to those who can’t afford them. They are also committed to sharing information with fellow writers to build a supportive and nurturing literary environment.
In a new series of interviews on community outreach, CavanKerry Press author Paola Corso will speak with other press authors about these projects and how they turn words into acts of community.
In this interview, Paola speaks with Baron Wormser, author and co-author of 14 books, most recently, the poetry collection, Unidentified Sighing Objects with CavanKerry Press. He teaches in the Fairfield University MFA Program and at his home in Montpelier, Vermont. One of his offerings is a generative poetry workshop he calls, “Open the Doors.”
Paola Corso: The title of your workshop, “Open the Doors,” sounds like a workshop for creating new possibilities. Tell me about the kinds of doors that participants have walked through.
Baron Wormser: Participants write new work on the spot. I use poems as prompts to get them engaged. We talk about the poem for a while and then they leap from the poem into their own imagination. I have found that a poem-prompt offers enough structure to lessen anxiety—what do I write about and how?–while avoiding being prescriptive. The discussion beforehand also helps participants to situate themselves in the realm of the actual—the poem in front of them—and the possible—the poem they may write. There is no predicting, of course, what will come out. What’s especially interesting is that often poems arise that speak to very intense, personal situations that the participant has either not written about or tried to write about but not succeeded. Writing to a prompt often opens the door to material that previously has been suppressed or repressed.
Paola Corso: How about an example of a poem-prompt?
Today for National Poetry Month, I selected a poem from Sandra M. Castillo’s Eating Moors And Christians.
Please share your thoughts on this poem below.
The bus driver speeds around
primitive streets, curves, circles, spheres,
the geometry of life.
He turns, swerves without looking,
without thinking about the blue below
our yellow, rectangular world speeding
towards the unknown.
I am thinking about Peruvian hieroglyphics,
abstract shapes, visions in an earth
I fail to recognize for she is the stranger
she might have seemed across time,
unidentified bodies of water.
This is an ancient city.
This is a mind map,
and I am the hydrometer
of the round, blue circle inside me
that wants to learn to measure water
without falling in.
I look at the palm of my hand:
You are here. You are here.
The driver falters on a turn, a stone,
and we spin, yellow into blue,
and I go fishing for familiar faces
who traveled with me
to foreign countries
above the sea level of our lives
and float across waters I have never known
to save something in me
that has never learned to swim.
Today for National Poetry Month, Joan Cusack Handler, Publisher and Senior Editor of CavanKerry Press, shares a poem from Nin Andrews’ Miss August.
Read the poem Mr. Simmons and share your thoughts with us below.
Gil’s father was as mean as a stepped-on snake, especially when he been
drinking. Don’t mind Mr. Simmons, Sarah Jane, May Dee used to say. He’s
just talk. But I did mind him. How he leaned up against the doorjamb in the
room where Gil and me was playing cards and watched us like a hunter
in a stand. He said things like Gil, are you running your mouth again, Boy?
You know what I’d like to do one day? Cut that tongue clear out of your head.
Make you quiet as sleep. Then he laughed, shook his head and said, I’m just
joshing, Sarah Jane. Don’t look at me like that. I looked at Gil instead, his
skin blue-tinged like something living underwater. I never knew how he
got any air in them days.
Watch the official video of Tina Kelley’s book reading this past Saturday at Words Bookstore in New Jersey!
Check out photos from the event below.
Our celebration of National Poetry Month continues with Joan Cusack Handler, Publisher and Senior Editor of CavanKerry Press, selecting a poem from Tina Kelley’s Abloom & Awry.
Read “Liking Drew” by author Tina Kelley below.
If you haven’t done so, make sure you get your copy of Letters from Limbo here.
Check out photos from the event below.
April 19th, 2017
Former CavanKerry Press Associate Publisher, Teresa Carson with author Jeanne Marie Beaumont at her book reading last night in NYC!
Today for National Poetry Month, our Managing editor, Starr Troup selects a poem from Nin Andrews’ Miss August.
I was a born nobody—my days so dull, I lay in my bed and watched dust rise. I listened to insect songs. And kept things to myself. I remember two silver dollars in my bedside table. A snow globe I wanted to climb inside. My pony, Annabel, that I didn’t ride. And more whippings than I can count. After a while I didn’t feel a sting. I learned there is a reason to lie. Not to ask. Not to tell. Not to flinch. Anybody asked, I said, Nothing happened. And nothing did. My friend, Sarah Jane Lee, she disagrees. She says I suffered. She says she did, too. And I thought she was the happy one. Nuh-uh, she shakes her head. She blames the South for everything wrong in our lives; everything bad, everything rotten or bitter as turnip greens. Come on up to New York, I say. Leave that place.
Nah, she says. I can’t live any place else. She gets a way-off look in her eyes. Besides, she says, folks up North don’t talk right.
Did you enjoy reading this poem? Comment below.
Joan Cusack Handler, Publisher and Senior Editor of CavanKerry Press says, “This is a great distinction for a great book! We are very proud to have published Jesus was a Homeboy and to see it receive this affirmation from the greater poetry community.”
If you don’t have a copy of this remarkable book, you’re missing out. Get your copy today by clicking here.
Author Tina Kelley discusses her joy of writing poetry, motherhood, her latest book “Abloom & Awry“, and takes aim at President Trump.
Read Tina Kelley’s full interview with Nin Andrews below.
Nin Andrews (NA): I love what I sensed as your joie de vivre, or your joy of writing, expressed to beautifully in this collection, and in your opening poem, “The Possible Utility of Poets.”
I especially loved the lines in which you quote your son: “The earth blooms a full inch when my son/explains, ‘A noun is basically everything. We can’t go anywhere without nouns.// They’re always next to us,’”
I wondered if you could say a few words about that poem, about your love of language and of poetry in particular.
Tina Kelley (TK): Thank you! I’m glad you sensed that! I am basically a cheerful, optimistic person, though I have a morbid streak, and I hope this book captures both angles. I love obscure words, and read through lists of them as a way to get inspired to write. I also steal shamelessly from real life, particularly from my experiences writing news and nonfiction, and especially from my kids. My son actually said that line, and I wrote it down. He’s gotten to the point where he will say something poetic and immediately urge me to write it down. He’s 12 now, and he still comes up with beautiful turns of phrases. The other day he told me I had “heathered eyes,” which I immediately stole and put in the file of “phrases that want to be in poems someday.”
RELATED: Abloom & Awry by Tina Kelley available now!
Today for National Poetry Month, our Managing editor, Starr Troup selects a poem which comes from Christopher Bursk’s A Car Stops And A Door Opens.
Read “The Key” by author Christopher Bursk below.
Here, the man says, stopping you on the street,
is the key to my heart,
and he closes your fingers
around a real key and then vanishes so quickly
you aren’t sure he’d stood next to you
and when you unclench your fist,
the sun chooses that exact moment
Ross Gay, author of Against Which, stops by Rachel Zucker’s podcast for an exclusive interview.
Ross Gay talks about how poems can help you look at difficult emotions and much more!
Rachel Zucker speaks with poet, teacher, gardner and community organizer Ross Gay. Gay is the author of Bringing Down the Shovel, Against Which, River, and Catlog of Unabashed Gratitude which won the Kinglsey Tufts Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Zucker and Gay talk about gardens, seasonal changes, teenage boys, anger, sorrow, stress reduction, and how poems can help you look at difficult emotions. Gay reads from his book Catlog and one of his new, unpublished “delights”.
Listen to the Commonplace episode with Ross Gay at the link below.
Happy National Poetry Month!
To celebrate, our Managing editor, Starr Troup selected a poem from Tina Kelley’s Abloom & Awry.
We are proud to present this poem to celebrate National Poetry Month.
Read “Tuesday Afternoon Metaphysics Lesson” by author Tina Kelley below.
Today Kate said she was drawing an angry ghost.
I asked what’s he mad at?
“Me,” she said.
“Cause I’m drawing him.”
How Heisenberg-y, as if
a spirit had hovered in the molecules
of her blue crayon tip who could’ve emerged
in any old emotional state, if that dimpled
fist had not borne down so hard.
And I know if I ask why she’s drawing him
she will holler, “yer buggin’ me!” so I just answer
what comes after G, why H, and how to draw the S.
And we place the labeled picture on the fridge,
that altar to preschool power, to delineation itself.
Did you enjoy reading this poem? Comment below.
We are proud to present another poem to celebrate National Poetry Month. Here’s “Things I’ve Lost” from Kevin Carey’s Jesus Was a Homeboy.
Things I’ve Lost
My father’s wedding ring
my tax returns
my bronze baby shoes
my orange high-cut sneakers
my first Christmas ornament
my ability to play defense
on a basketball court
some of my friends (living and dead)
some of the wonder
some of the grace
some of the time I spent
looking for love
or something to fix me
April is National Poetry Month. To celebrate an entire month dedicated to poetry, we start with “Post Mortem” from Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s Letters from Limbo.
Who killed Anna K.?
Not I, said Belladonna of the nightshade family.
I supply atropine to dilate pupils, anesthetize.
It’s true I can produce rapid heart rate,
but I’m an antidote to poisoning with morphine.
Only overdose will cause coma, convulsions,
delirium. Look, I prevent cardiac slowing—
it surely was not me!
CavanKerry Press is pleased to have been nominated as a finalist by Association of Writers & Writing Programs for the 2017 AWP Small Press Publisher Award!
AWP’s Small Press Publisher Award is an annual prize for nonprofit presses and literary journals that recognizes the important role such organizations play in publishing creative works and introducing new authors to the reading public. The award acknowledges the hard work, creativity, and innovation of these presses and journals, and honors their contributions to the literary landscape through their publication of consistently excellent work.
Congrats to Coffee House Press, winner of the 2017 AWP Small Press Publisher Award and the other small press finalist Belladonna.
We hope for another opportunity to be nominated for this prestigious award next year with the support of our fans. Letters of nomination are accepted each year between August 1 – September 15 and submitted through AWP’s Submittable portal.
Get the full details about our nomination on awpwriter.org.
Author Christoper Bursk discusses writing, poetry, and his latest book ‘A Car Stops and A Door Opens‘.
Read Christopher Bursk’s full interview with Nin Andrews below.
Nin Andrews (NA): I so enjoyed reading A Car Stops and a Door Opens. How long did it take you to write this collection? Can you talk a little about the evolution of the book?
Chris Bursk (CB): I have been working on this book for a number of years. Some poems – the ekphrastic ones – date back several decades. The poems about parents go back at least a decade. The book decided it wanted the poem “A Car Stops And a Door Opens” to be the opening into the book – there are a number of doors in the book – doors in the body, doors in the mind, trapdoors too.
Bill Murray is a lifelong lover of verse who’s been a supporter of New York City’s Poets House for more than 20 years.
In celebration of National Poetry Month, O Magazine asked Murray to share a few of his favorite poems.
The first poem Bill Murray selected was Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye.
Watch the video below of Amos Koffa performing at this year’s NJ Poetry Out Loud.
The State Champion of New Jersey Poetry Out Loud 2017 is Amos Koffa of Burlington County Institute of Technology – Medford Campus. Here he is with “Let the Light Enter” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.
Amos Koffa will head to the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., to compete at the National Finals of Poetry Out Loud in April 2017.
CavanKerry Press author Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s “Letters from Limbo” makes an appearance on Poetry Daily.
In Jeanne Marie Beaumont’s book, Letters from Limbo, voices of the dead reach the living through various means, including the titular letters, revealing experiences harrowing and mysterious. Fluent in many modes, the poet commands varied poetic forms both illuminating and celebrating the haunting truth of our unpredictable earthly sojourn as we dwell in metaphorical limbo.
Poetry Daily is an anthology of contemporary poetry. Each day, the website brings new poems from books, magazines, and journals. Read “Letters from Limbo” by Jeanne Marie Beaumont which appeared on Poetry Daily below.
CavanKerry Press author Joseph O. Legaspi is featured in the December 2016 issue of Poetry Magazine.
Check out the visual poetry called “Scale” by Shira Dentz here.
Shira Dentz is also the author of “door of thin skins” release by CavanKerry Press. Door of Thin Skins, a hybrid collection of poetry and prose, deconstructs the nature of psychological power through the deconstruction of traditional narrative and language.
“There is no doubt poetry is cathartic especially when it comes to dealing with loss or with regret or with aging. Thinking about a poem, writing a poem, can be a kind of self-examination, I think, a way to make sense of the loss, whether it be the kind of loss that manifest itself through mistakes I’ve made, or wishing I had done things differently, or just the natural passing of time.”
Wanda S. Praisner, The Crafty Poet II: A Portable Workshop
West Caldwell Public Library
30 Clinton Road
West Caldwell, NJ
Saturday, December 3rd, 2 PM (Free)
Sandra M. Castillo is a poet and South Florida resident. She was born in Havana, Cuba and emigrated on one of the last Freedom Flights. In this exclusive interview with Nin Andrews, Sandra discusses her life and becoming a writer.
Read the full interview with Sandra M. Castillo below.
Nin Andrews (NA): I would love to start by asking you to post the poem, “Pizza,” here, and then say a little bit about your life story. When did you emigrate from Cuba? How old were you then?
Sandra M. Castillo (SC): Pizza
I sit in East Hialeah,
a white, leather-top stool at Mr. Bee’s Pizza,
a left over, outdoor 50s soda shop
just off Palm Avenue.
These are out days with Father,
and this is his favorite spot.
Mabel and Mitzy shift their weight
to their feet, push into a spin.
Father lets them, so does Mr. Bee,
and we were drink 10-ounce bottles
of Coca Cola with our slices
while Father and Mr. Bee try
to understand each other’s language.
It is our first year in Miami.
Mother work days, Father nights,
and in that small, one bedroom apartment
Tía Estela rented for us a year before we arrived,
we watch American cartoons:
Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry,
run around the orange trees in the backyard,
think the world is 310 East 10th Street,
walks to and from El Caibarien,
Coca Cola, a slice
I think I was born knowing that we would be leave Cuba. Household conversations, particularly hush-toned ones, were always about our departure. It was always a question of the when. My mother’s oldest sister, who had left the island prior to the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, had arrived in Key West in 1958. If you can believe it, she actually traded homes with an American who was traveling through Pinar del Rio and fell in love with an idea of himself in the Caribbean. He offered her his home in Miami in exchange for hers. Sight unseen, she accepted the offer and came on the ferry (Havana-Key West) with her husband, her children and all their possessions. By the time I was born, she was sending my parents Gerber baby food and all things American, including the Sears catalogue.
By 1962, the year I was born, my parents and I had US entry visas. My father’s brother, who had come left Cuba before the United States broke off diplomatic relations with the island, had sent us US entry visas in the hope that we would follow, but my mother refused to leave her parents behind and the visas expired.
Then, in September of 1965, Fidel Castro stood at La Plaza de la Revolucion and made an unexpected announcement. Beginning in October of 1965, the Port of Camarioca would be open to Cubans wishing to leave the island. Castro also said the port would be open to anyone wishing to go pick up their relatives. Cubans who opted to leave the island, however, were effectively forfeiting their property and possessions to the Castro government. This exodus did not last. It did, however, lead to conversations between the United States and Cuba, which ultimately negotiated what became known as The Freedom Flights. These twice-a-day-flights were made possible via diplomatic talks as the Johnson administration wanted an orderly exodus. As such, specific criteria was set in place. In order for a family to leave the island via these flights, that family had to be claimed from the United States by a US citizen who agreed to be financially responsible for those family members. Once that paperwork was completed, that given family (in Cuba) was assigned an exit number. By the time our number (160,633) came up, my grandparents had passed away. We arrived in the United States in the summer of 1970: my parents, my twin sisters, who were four and me. I was eight years old.
I loved your first book, and now I love this one even more (Jesus Was My Homeboy). It’s so accessible, so immediate, for lack of a better term. In your poems, you capture beautifully the midlife angst of time passing you by. I was wondering if you could say a few words about that, and then maybe post the poem, “Not Much to It.”
I’ll be 60 in March so it’s heavy on my mind lately. That used to seem ancient to me as a young man. I like to think I’m in the second half, but it’s probably more like the last quarter. It gets you thinking about the journey.
Not much to it.
You draw with chalk
on your sidewalk.
You ride your bike.
You go for ice cream
with your friends.
You party in college.
You get to figuring
by the fire
on a cold night
in the mountains.
You listen to jazz
on the ocean.
You catch a ball game
now and then.
You cradle with
different folks till you
find one that fits.
wake up one day
sitting on a
missing your kids
patting your dog
drinking a can of cold beer,
the summer night
like a blanket on your shoulders
and something you knew
floats by in the night sky
just out of reach.
I also love how you write about your family, about what I, the reader, imagine is often happening right now. Do you ever feel a need for distance between yourself and your subject matter?
I feel like I have to maintain a certain distance to be able to write the poems at all. The initial memory is the prompt to the poem but once I get into it I want to write it honestly, so standing back (and trying to remove the emotion) helps to get it right in my mind.
What does your family think of your books?
I have not heard too many complaints. My wife and kids are very supportive. They’re okay knowing there’s a good chance they’ll end up in a poem or two. My brothers and sisters are proud of their little brother I suppose. I think I get them weepy once in a while. The other day I went to my mother’s grave and read a few of the poems she was in. I did the same for my father when the last book came out. They didn’t offer any criticism. (ha ha). I miss them.
You have a talent for offering a sense of place in your poetry. Reading, I feel as if I am in the car with you, or I am in the coffee shop or the park or the sauna at the Y or . . . Is this something you are conscious of doing?
I do often think about painting that picture, how the right detail or two can focus the place for you. My fiction class and I were reading a story by Richard Ford the other day and the subject looks out to the mountains and sees a “red bar sign.” We talked about how that one small detail cemented the scene in our minds. I’m always searching for that right detail. I hope some of the time I can find it.
This book has such a natural flow. Reading it, I imagined that the words glided onto the page without effort. (Of course, we all hope to sound that way.) But I am thinking, it wasn’t too long ago that your first book was published by CavanKerry. How was the writing of this different from the writing of the first? Was it just a natural continuation?
In many ways it does feel like a continuation of the same subjects – family, place, death, grief, regret. It sounds so somber when I list the topics like that but these people and these memories have had a profound effect on me. I can’t get away from them. I put the pen to the page and they keep showing up.
As a poet you have this funny, whimsical side, but you also have a profound seriousness mixed in, as in the poem, “Death Wish,” which ends, “I want it to be special, magical/worth the wait,/ after being afraid for so long.” I just wanted to applaud when I read that line. Do you think of yourself as a funny poet? Is wit, in your opinion, an essential ingredient of your poetry?
I do sometimes make myself laugh when I’m writing. You always hope what you find funny or whimsical will translate. There’s nothing worse than pulling out the funny poem at a reading and staring back at the tight-lipped crowd. The subjects I deal with need some humor from time to time or the weight might kill me.
What is the most challenging part of writing a collection of poetry?
I feel like the collection piece can sometimes come after the poetry. In both these books I started by publishing a bunch of poems until I had a stack to weed through, pulling out the ones that didn’t make sense together, then writing some more to fill in the thematic gaps. I’ve yet to set out with a totally thematic intent, as far as a collection goes, but I always end up there. I have talked about tackling a specific subject with the next book. We’ll see how that goes.
Are there any writers who helped or inspired you in the writing of this book?
Many. Phil Levine was my first inspiration and remains so today. But there are many others, Jerry Stern, Ruth Stone, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Charles Simic. I also get inspiration from songwriters like Johnny Cash and Lucinda Williams. I am fortunate to be close to two great groups of poets as well, one in Salem, Mass and the other in New Jersey. I owe these folks a lot.
I am always interested in titles. When did you know that this was your title?
I imagined it not long after I published the title poem. It felt like (to me) it contained a lot of the bittersweet-ness of some of the other poems.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about this book?
I’m happy it’s here. The response has been humbling.
I would love to close the poem, “Reading to My Kids,” about your daughter reading Of Mice and Men.
I was so happy to hear Garrison Keillor reading this poem on The Writer’s Almanac. But now I have to follow him when I read it in public!
Reading To My Kids
When they were little I read
to them at night until my tongue
got tired. They would poke me
when I started to nod off after twenty
pages of Harry Potter or one of
the Lemony Snickett novels. I read to
them to get them to love reading
but I was never sure if it was working
or if it just looked like the right thing to do.
But one day, my daughter ( fifteen then)
was finishing Of Mice and Men in the car
on our way to basketball. She was at
the end when I heard her say, No
in a familiar frightened voice and I
knew right away where she was,
“Let’s do it now,” Lennie begged,
“Let’s get that place now.”
“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta.”
And she stared crying, then I started
crying, and I think I saw Steinbeck
in the backseat nodding his head,
and it felt right to me,
like I’d done something right,
and I told her keep going,
read it to me, please, please, I can take it.
Sarah Bracey White, White Plains Women’s Club (White Plains, NY)
Wednesday October 26th at 1 pm
Sarah will be the keynote speaker and will be reading from Primary Lesssonsat the “Annual Book and Author Luncheon, 100th Anniversary Celebration”
Kevin Carey, Del Rossi’s Trattoria (Dublin, NH)
Sunday, October 30th at 3pm
Kevin will be part of an open poetry reading with Katie Towler
In this raw essay, Jackie Guttman, a member of the CKP ADA Advisory Board, writes with searing honesty about the change from being taken care of by her husband to becoming his caregiver. I’m grateful to her for daring to speak about the resentment associated with caregiving.
-Teresa Carson, Associate Publisher
A sentiment I’ve heard a lot from friends – and which I share – is “this is not the life I expected.” One friend did not expect her very sociable husband to develop dementia; one did not expect her always healthy husband to die at 69 of pancreatic cancer; one did not expect her young up-and-coming husband to make bad decisions that left them having to watch their pennies in retirement. One even had her lover of three decades dump her when he became widowed; she was married and he no longer wanted a clandestine girl friend. It’s a loss of equilibrium. For better and worse, people evolve as they mature, inevitably changing the rules of the marital game. The scales tip.
In my own case, my husband was my caregiver by the time I was 30. My rheumatoid arthritis, in addition to affecting my hands, shoulders, knees and other joints, caused enormous fatigue. Howard never complained. He did the laundry; he took us for rides when walking was difficult; he did the bulk of the shopping; he didn’t cook, but neither did he expect me to produce meals. (We sent out a lot.) When necessary, he helped me dress – and still does on occasion. Over the past 25 years he has seen me through four major knee surgeries. All this enabled me to attend graduate school and work, albeit part-time. There was nothing he would not do for me, and to this day he opens bottles, jars, cans, medicine containers and recalcitrant fruit and vegetable packages.
About 20 years ago he was diagnosed with breast cancer. A mastectomy and Tamoxifen took care of it until it returned 11 years later. This time he had surgery, chemo and radiation, all of which left him somewhat damaged. A robust and big guy at 6’3” and 215 pounds, he lost 30 pounds and turned into this bald, skinny, pale-faced man. After both of his surgeries I dealt with his drains, pinning them to his undershirts so they would not pull. I sat with him as he slept through chemotherapy. Together, we laughed at post-op instructions that told him not to shave under his arms or wear an underwire bra. He gained back much of the weight, his color improved and his gorgeous white hair grew back, but since that time he has had more than his share of medical problems. He has had a hip replaced and had three spinal surgeries with extensive rehab. He has severe neuropathy of his hands and feet. Despite having normal cholesterol levels and blood pressure, he had a very mild and initially misdiagnosed stroke two years ago. At 79 he is bent over and walks with a cane or walker at the speed of a slow snail. With a diminished appetite he has lost additional weight and we are struggling to deal with that before frailty sets in. He drives, but far less than he used to. And just today, in another bitter blow, he was given a diagnosis of probable oral cancer – he who never smoked.
I, thanks to superb medical care and luck, have held my own and even improved. In many ways, and despite limitations, I am in better shape than I was 20 years ago. I do not appear ill so I am perceived as my husband’s designated caregiver. I do much of the driving, though my joints regret it if I exceed 90 minutes. When we go to our vacation home, I bring most things to and from the car. I sometimes help him with buttons, a frustrating challenge. Loading and unloading the dishwasher has been his purview for years; now I often do it. Though I’m fairly tall, he always reached the things in high places; now that has become my job, when I can do it, or we have to ask others. I drop him off and park the car, as he used to for me. I pave the way. I advocate. He is still quite strong, but everything takes him so long that I do more than I need to out of sheer impatience. We rented a scooter for him on a recent cruise. It was a godsend for him, but as I trotted alongside it I felt like it was my pace car. Doors on ships are extremely heavy and not always automatic; I became the doorwoman, pulling them open with both hands and slithering around to lean on and hold them.
Though I can and do offer emotional support, I am not a natural nurturer; he is. This is not a role I relish. I see one friend cater to her husband’s dietary needs and another one tenderly feed her husband meals. She also changes his diapers and keeps him clean. I don’t think I could do that. After over 40 years with RA, while I’m grateful that I can do what I do, I admit I resent the caregiving. As I see my husband begin to need more, I find I cannot be his keeper. That sounds heartless even to me, but I know that when I do extra lifting, carrying and driving, it takes me three days of rest and painkillers to recover. I must protect myself. I see my friend drive to Albany and back in one day for her husband’s medical needs; one way would be too much for me.
Our retirement plans included travel but it’s become complicated; we used to take long auto trips with our kids and I’d hoped to do more. Not gonna happen. Flying involves wheelchairs and, again, careful planning. Cruising ditto. We do it, but… this is not the life I expected. Ironically, I thought that I’d be in a wheelchair by now and am grateful that I’m still on my feet, but why-oh-why can’t we both be more able?
We don’t laugh like we used to; there’s too much bad stuff. However, we often tell each other how fortunate we feel, and we really do. We do not have financial problems. We do have each other, for however long. Our minds are intact, mostly. We have our kids and grandchildren. We have love.
Ah, but I do miss the old Howard. My protector is gone.
Joan Cusack Handler, Canio’s Book Store (290 Main Street, Sag Harbor, NY)
Saturday, October 22nd at 5pm
Joan will be reading from Orphans
Kevin Carey, Dodge Poetry Festival (First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church, Newark, NJ)
Saturday October 22nd at 5pm
Kevin is part of a festival reading with Nicole Terez Dutton, Celeste Gainey, Amy Meng, and Deborah Paredez
The Disabled & D/deaf Writers Caucus
A yearly meeting at the annual AWP Conference & aims to allow for disabled individuals to network and discuss common challenges related to identity, writing, and teaching while professionally leading a literary life.”
Poetry Society of Michigan Outreach Project
The Poetry Society of Michigan has created a program where the members work with individuals or groups who lack a particular ability or who live in an overwhelming situation. The poet offers opportunities to write poems, read poetry, talk about both and discover the impact that doing so has on the person, her/his daily life, and on the member of the Society. It is poignant, profound, and powerful how adding poetry in this way affects the recipient’s each day, perceiving what heretofore has been overlooked, unrealized.
The National Arts and Disability Center
The National Arts and Disability Center (NADC) promotes the full inclusion of audiences and artists with disabilities into all facets of the arts community.
Disability Visibility Project
The Disability Visibility Project (DVP)™ is an online community dedicated to recording,amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. The DVP is also a community partnership with StoryCorps, a national oral history organization.
University of Delaware, The National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities: Recommended books about the disability experience
The Ability Center: Links and resources
The Art of Autism
An international collaboration of talented individuals who have come together to display the creative abilities of people on the autism spectrum and others who are neurodivergent.
Alliance for Arts and Health New Jersey
Connects artists and arts professionals and those who provide health and wellness services in order to educate, advocate, and advance best practices in arts and health.
“A Short History or Disabled Poetry” by Michael Northen
“There is still a long way to go, however, before disability poetry gets the attention that it deserves. While the poets above show the increased tendency of poets with disabilities to view physical disability as a social construction, it should not be thought that the saccharine and paternalistic poems about disability have ceased to be written. Just as the charity and medical models of disability still hold sway in the American mind at large, they also continue in poetry about disability”
PBS Newshour: Meet the Deaf Poets Society, a digital journal for writers with disabilities
“Katz said members of the disability community have struggled to find its place in the literary world, with many writers asking who is afforded space to write in a world that often renders disabled people invisible.”
Poetry Foundation: “Disability and Poetry, an exchange“
Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature
Deaf Poets Society: An Online Journal of Disability Literature & Art
Breath and Shadow: A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature
Portal to the disability blog word
The Barefoot Review: Creative Works about Health
Poetry Out Loud: Accessibility for all students
Disability Social History Project: Resources from the web
National Endowment for the Arts: Accessibility Resources